best film:  Pierrot le Fou from Godard. Godard’s most innovative work to date in 1965 and the one most likely to give pause when selecting Breathless as his single finest film. It is self-conscious, self-mocking and a brilliant deconstruction of the artform and gangster genre. It’s more than that though because, unlike later Godard (post-Weekend), it is visually stunning. Yes, it’s narrative anarchy, but it’s eye-poppingly vivid and watchable.

bold color splashes from Godard

rebellion from Godard– from their debuts on, you can actually see Truffaut getting more conservative as Godard is breaking away

postmodern — ripping apart genres, capitalism, narrative convention — just a few of the targets

in 1965 Godard is still intentional in his design


most underrated:   There are three contenders here- Lumet’s The Hill can’t find its way onto the consensus TSPDT top 1000 (it is at #2738). That’s one of the biggest discrepancies I have with the entire list. Close behind that I have Juliet of the Spirits from Fellini. Juliet is safely in my top 100 and TSPDT has it at #949. I’m at a loss there. Maybe it is the expectations of following up La Dolce Vita and 8 1/2. Most critics somehow think of both films as flawed works or even missteps for Fellini and Lumet. These two films are not “minor” or “lessor” anything. The third and final contender for most underrated is The Ipcress File. It is the very rare—non-auteur masterpiece (and isn’t in the TSPDT top 2000 either).  It actually has a perfect 100% on Rotten Tomatoes- but if you read through most of the praise—the praise is directed towards the intelligent (albeit dense) adaptation and narrative from of Len Deighton’s source material or/and the acting work from relative newcomer (this is before Alfie but after Zulu) Michael Caine as Harry Palmer. Both of those aspects of the film deserve praise for sure—but these are mere pats on the head. Upon closer examination— there is much more to see here from Sidney Furie and DP Otto Heller- neither have very impressive filmographies (Heller shot Peeping Tom in 1960 with Powell) but this here- The Ipcress File– seems to be a one-off display of absolutely brilliant cinematic visual filmmaking (and certainly submarines the auteur theory a little- haha). Furie takes the idea of surveillance in his use of blocking objects in the frame and wild camera angles and positions. Big brother dystopian camera angles is something Gilliam does so well in Brazil (which is two decades later) and All the President’s Men does this famously in 1976—but Furie’s camera placement, character and object blocking are breathtaking here- rare air as far as the achievement in visual style. This is Antonioni meets Kurosawa. This is the first of three in a trio of adaptations from Len Deighton’s books- Caine would star again as Palmer in Funeral in Berlin (1966) and Billion Dollar Brain (1967- and neither directed by Furie). Harry Palmer is akin to James Bond—and it is worth noting that you’d get Caine and Connery together in 1975’s The Man Who Would Be King as a sort of Cold War spy agents Batman vs. Superman – but with all due respect to 007- I’m not sure any one Bond film hits the cinematic high-water mark The Ipcress File does.


The Hill — uncompromising– one of the great works from both Lumet and Connery

Fellini’s first foray away from black and white — and still one of cinema’s best uses of color

Nino Rota the score- the costume and set decoration from Piero Gherardi

Fellini uses the changes in elevation like a painter here

from The Ipcress File – there’s another of Green shot through the door just barely open enough. Antonioni would do this with windows- or a building swallowing up Moreau in La Notte (predating Ipcress) or the secretary blocked off by the obtrusive wall in Zabriskie Point (which in this case is after Ipcress File)…..50 or more of these creative surveillance shots

The single best shot may be the shot of Green with 75% of the screen blocked by the red lampshade with Green on the far left—just a wow


most overrated:  I have a Godard study planned shortly so I hope I’ll soon be regretting even mentioning this but for now Alphaville at #523 on the consensus list makes me scratch my head. Ultimately, it is Bunuel’s work that gets the choice here though. I don’t fully understand the love for Simon of the Desert (#912 on TSPDT). There are some decent ideas there, but it’s truncated and half-baked. Bunuel didn’t even finish the film and it comes in at 43 minutes.  

gem I want to spotlight:   Le Bonheur from Agnes Varda

  • Varda’s third feature after La Pointe Courte and Cleo From 5 to 7– she goes a resounding 3 for 3 here- one of the most promising starts to any auteur’s career
  • Gorgeous 35mm color photography (her first in color)- she fills her frames color, floral décor
  • Uses 3 dp’s, 2 editors—so yeah- it is Varda here who is the genius

stunning sunflower shot opening credit sequence…

… which bookends nicely with the final shot

  • Mozart perfectly fits—starts with an idyllic  Day in the Country- Renoir-like Father’s day—hokey– this is a damning criticism of a male-centric world
  • So stylistically and formally well-done—fading to colors in editing- beautiful
  • Patterned dresses, primary color’s galore—colored trucks passing in the frames, over the top advertising part of her complex mise-en-scene— it’s Demy (in the same period as him) or Contempt from Godard. Same year as Pierrot from him and Juliet of the Spirits from Fellini fantastic experimentation in color in 1965
  • The foliage drapes the frames
  • The husband is a smiling devil (nice, patient, annoyingly self-centered—those nature metaphors crack me up)—mimics the husband on television in a great critical shot society
  • Varda is throwing 100mph—making choices stylistically- she oscillates the camera between the tree as her protagonist is dancing with wife and then alternately with girlfriend

Beautiful montage of still frame photographs shaping the body with the blonde in bed

  • A feat of editing, mise-en-scene, and color
  • Repeat edit 5X upon her death in a nice sequence– Scorsese borrows this often (obviously no Scorsese in 1965 yet) and Varda first uses this in Cleo 
  • Far from the touches of neo-realism in La Pointe Courte, parts of Cleo– and Vagabond to follow in 1985 which is Varda’s most neo-realistic and frankly least beautiful film
  • Haunting final shot of the new family, dressed the same– like out of an advertisement, going into the forest— fade to yellow (like Marnie did in 1964)


trends and notables:

  • Breathless in 1960, Godard’s debut, may technically be his peak—but we’re smack the middle of the Godard avalanche here—it is almost overwhelming. Alphaville and Pierrot in 1965 makes for seven archiveable films in six years including three masterpieces

The Sound of Music from Robert Wise starring Julie Andrews is a bonanza at the box office- it is the single biggest box office hit of the 1960’s decade

  • Juliet of the Spirits is a notable artistic first for Fellini as it’s his first color film—supremely creative- talk about pushing the envelope
  • I mention it above but Varda is sort of the new Dreyer (or at least she starts that way) in that she has a long time off between films- but they’re all sublime. Tarkovsky is another potential heir apparent too. Her films were released in 1955, 1962, and 1965—MS, MS/MP, and MS to start the career for Varda
  • Bergman—the story here is Bergman has nothing made or in the archives in 1965. That’s how good he is- it is a story. It is worth observing because for the first time since 1951 we have back to back years with no archiveable films (1964 and 1965) from Bergman- that’ll be remedied in a big way in 1966 of course with Persona
  • First archiveable film for Milos Forman—beginning of the Czech New Wave– Loves of a Blonde – get used to the “New Wave” thing as a saying (hahaha) when a country has multiple auteurs that are among the best in the world at the same time
  • James Ivory has his first archiveable film with Shakespeare-Wallah -his producer Ismail Merchant and writer Ruth Prawer Jhabvala are part of the collaboration—what’s most interesting about Ivory is just how long it would take for his best work to come. The peak Merchant/Ivory films are from 1985-1993– some twenty years after his first archiveable film
  • Tony Richardson is on fire in this era- this is his sixth archiveable film since 1959—and how about the great character actor George Kenney with four archiveable films in one year (Mirage, The Sons of Katie Elders, In Harm’s Way, The Flight of the Phoenix)
  • We have firsts from Jane Fonda– she is great in Cat Ballou. She’d go on to be a top tier actress for the remainder of the decade and the 1970’s. We also have the first archiveable films from the luminous Julie Christie- more on Christie below

Leone is back with the second entry in his unofficial Man with No Name trilogy

stunning pair of shots here

best performance male  It is actually a weaker year here compared to so many in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s. There are four actors I want to spotlight and really only two vying fort the top spot. Ultimately Jean-Paul Belmondo walks away with the best male performance of the year for yet another collaboration with Godard (and this time with Anna Karina). He’s cool, charming, arrogant and completely free-swinging. There dozens of winks at the camera—reflexive—and the film includes long periods of improvising and even reading aloud from a book. It’s Belmondo and impossible to think of anyone else in the role. I was very close to picking Sean Connery’s best career performance in Lumet’s The Hill here as well- he’s second only to Belmondo.  Connery’s performance is like the film- tough as nails- punishing. Michael Caine is here for The Ipcress File as spy Harry Palmer– a rich character– an early feather in the cap for the legendary actor. The last mention is for Orson Welles, directing himself again in Chimes at Midnight. It’s odd, if you just asked me if Welles was a talented actor I’d probably say “no”- but he wins you over (as the role and film calls for) as Falstaff. And with Citizen Kane and Touch of Evil he is no stranger to this category over the years.

Welles’ last great triumph– both in front of and behind the camera in Chimes at Midnight


best performance female: For the third time in twelve years, Giulietta Masina leads the pack in the category, this time for Juliet of the Spirits. She is only an eyelash better than three other awe-inspiring actresses in 1965. It is certainly a stronger year for the female performances than their male counterparts. Edged out barely by Masina are Deneuve (Repulsion), Karina (Pierrott le Fou), and Julie Christie (Doctor Zhivago, Darling). Deneuve and Karina were both on the list in 1964 as well—I’m especially impressed with young Deneuve going from a candy-colored musical with Demy to an austere, nearly silent black and white psychological thriller/horror with Polanski. And what a year for Christie!  She won the Academy Award for Darling and she’s very good there– but she’s even better in Doctor Zhivago. David Lean did exactly what he did with the casting in Lawrence of Arabia with Peter O’Toole here with Christie.

a great frame from Repulsion— a film that confirmed the talents of both Polanski and Deneuve after Knife in the Water and Umbrellas of Cherbourg

a shot repeated often in different variations throughout


top 10

  1. Pierrot le Fou
  2. Juliet of the Spirits
  3. Repulsion
  4. The Ipcress File
  5. The Hill
  6. Doctor Zhivago
  7. For a Few Dollars More
  8. Le Bonheur
  9. Chimes at Midnight
  10. Red Beard


Red Beard– The end of an era for Kurosawa- his last film in black and white, his last film (sixteen total I believe) with Mifune, and last film of the 1960’s (it is my understanding there were a number of projects that never came to fruition for whatever reason in the back half of the decade)

Since 1958’s The Hidden Fortress and every film since (a fertile artistic period, even for Kurosawa)- each has the superwide 2.35 : 1 Tohoschop aspect ratio and Kurosawa knows exactly how to design the entire frame

At 24 minutes- a gorgeous frame- a crooked tree dividing the frame of the young doctor and girl

in Doctor Zhivago David Lean did with snow what he did with sand in the desert in Lawrence of Arabia

Lean’s perfectionism gets misconstrued and wrongly interpreted — as if he lacked for artistry

from Griffith to Nolan — it is is impossible to talk about ambition, scale and scope without dedicating plenty of time to discuss David Lean

Welles’ obstructing the frame in Chimes at Midnight

almost impossibly beautiful lighting in the cathedral

Welles’ trademark use of low-angles, ceiling as mise-en-scene here




Archives, Directors, and Grades

A Patch of Blue- Green R
A Thousand Clowns- Coe R
Alphaville- Godard R
Bunny Lake is Missing- Preminger R
Cat Ballou- Silverstein R
Chimes at Midnight – Welles MS
Darling- Schlesinger R
Doctor Zhivago- Lean MS/MP
Fist In the Pocket – Bellocchio R
For a Few Dollars More- Leone MS
In Harm’s Way- Preminger R
Juliet of the Spirits- Fellini MP
Le Bonheur – Varda MS
Loves of a Blonde- Forman
Mickey One- Penn R
Mirage-Dmytryk R
Morituri – Wicki
Operation Crossbow- M. Anderson R
Othello- Burge R
Pierrot le Fou- Godard MP
Red Beard – Kurosawa HR
Repulsion- Polanski MP
Shakespeare-Wallah – Ivory R
Ship of Fools- Kramer R
Simon of the Desert- Bunuel R
The Agony and the Ecstasy- C. Reed R
The Cincinnati Kid – Jewison R
The Collector- Wyler R
The Flight of the Phoenix- Aldrich R
The Great Race- Edwards R
The Hill- Lumet MS/MP
The Ipcress File – Furie MP
The Knack… and How to Get It  – Lester R
The Loved One- Richardson
The Nanny  – Holt R
The Sons of Katie Elders- Hathaway R
The Sound of Music- Wise HR
The Spy Who Came In From the Cold- Ritt
Thunderball – Young R


*MP is Masterpiece- top 1-3 quality of the year film

MS is Must-See- top 5-6 quality of the year film

HR is Highly Recommend- top 10 quality of the year film

R is Recommend- outside the top 10 of the year quality film but still in the archives